It’s one of the enduring images of the 2018 Miami Marlins. On a beautiful afternoon—sun shining, roof open, the ballpark (mostly) full—José Ureña winds up and delivers the very first pitch of the MLB season.
Ian Happ pulverized it. And then, the floodgates open:
Lol remember last year when Jose Urena started the season by going:— Cespedes Family BBQ (@CespedesBBQ) February 14, 2019
The Marlins lost to the Cubs that day and never spent a moment above the .500 mark en route to a 63-98 record.
Ureña is not the same pitcher now that he was back then. He finished last season with a flourish and posted a respectable 3.98 ERA, 4.17 FIP and 1.18 WHIP overall as the lone constant in the Marlins rotation.
Manager Don Mattingly rewarded him for it on Thursday morning by announcing to the media that the 27-year-old will get another crack at the Opening Day assignment. Miami hosts the Rockies on March 28. The news comes much earlier than in 2018 when the club waited until March 10 to arrive at the same decision.
This time around, Mattingly cited Ureña’s “work ethic” and “toughness” as reasons he can be trusted with the responsibility of leading the rebranded franchise into 2019.
Instead of Chad Wallach behind the plate, Jorge Alfaro figures to serve as the other half of the battery. Ureña and Alfaro—who was traded from the Phillies last week—got acquainted during a bullpen session when pitchers and catchers officially reported on Wednesday.
Una mejor de Jorge Alfaro y José Ureña. pic.twitter.com/Xf85AlDvnh— Daniel Álvarez Montes (@DaniAlvarez_16) February 13, 2019
Dan Straily also looks like a lock for the Marlins starting rotation. Beyond that, expect plenty of competition (which has been the big buzz word through the first few days of major league camp). Sandy Alcántara, Wei-Yin Chen, Pablo López, Trevor Richards and Caleb Smith are firmly in the mix.